Monday, June 29, 2015

Of a Type

'Wow! It's so satisfying! So immediate!"
The children's reaction (Anna's specifically) to the electric typewriter I got at the antique mall the other day.  A mere $10 -- with a sheaf of carbon paper and extra ribbon cartridges!  The kids had never experienced typing outside of a computer keyboard and are enthralled. As you might have guessed we have a household of rabid communicators here and any new means of getting words out is bound to be met with unusual enthusiasm.

I love my bunch of wordy weirdos.
smile emotico

"This. is. so. cool! Why don't people use these any more?" they wonder.

Instead of computers?  Why do you think?  But, the thing is -- slow, inefficient, and not connected to the worldwide web as they were -- I miss them!

We've moved on, though, To what most would agree are better ways of communicating. And yeah... Perhaps this is so if you measure communication by volume and not quality. But I'm not so sure the computer age has improved us as writers -- or as people. We can now send our opinions, our images and our propaganda -- good, bad and indifferent -- around the world silently and at the speed of thought. But, I don't think this has done a thing for our composite character. Take a look at what you find on the internet, from general acceptance of typos, bad grammar, and nonexistent punctuation to the general acceptance of not only immorality but depravity.
The world was a better place when we all knew cursive and typed on typewriters. (Says the girl typing this on a smart phone...) Lots of cause and effect reasons why that is, but here are a handful:
* If you made a mistake in typewriter days, you had to go through several steps to correct it (anyone remember white out and correction tape?) and it was hard to completely hide the error. You learned, therefore, to be accurate and not make mistakes. This applied to the bigger picture, as well.
* It mattered to get things right back in the typewriter days. You took it for granted that you sometimes would have to just start a paper over again. There was no rearranging sentences and paragraphs with a highlight and a click. In typewriter days, you thought ahead, you thought out what you were going to write before you wrote it -- and you kept a stack of paper at your elbow for rewrites. This ability to think things through mentally, following a train of thought to its conclusion was a cause and effect of a proper-thinking people
* Which segues to this inescapable point: typing anything took longer and was physically harder to do. You had to basically sledgehammer the keys on a manual, and even an electric's keys were significantly harder to press than computer keys. Speed is relative though, as the whole world moved slower in typewriter days. Not a bad thing. At all. (And people had very strong fingers back in the day.)
* Typewriting was a sensory communication experience unlike anything kids today get to play with: The ch-ch-ch-ch as you roll the paper in; the lightning fast movement of the keys and the sliding off the carriage, accompanied by the tock-t-tock-tock *DING*! And the typist's hand automatically shooting over to move the return bar -- sslliipp -- back to a new line. And then: words on the page. Immediate. Satisfying.
And in the case of these kids' first attempts, a page full of very silly random gobbledygook. Which they are still
poring over in fascination.
(Bonus points for anyone who can name the character on an iconic '90s movie who loved manual typewriters, too.)
(And please have mercy on me if there are any typos here. This was not typed on the new electric typewriter... I 'slid' these words on my touch phone and was eating ice cream and watching a baseball movie while writing it... So there you have it. The modern world. We're in it. Or you wouldn't be reading this.)

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